What You Need to Know about the Director of the Oscar-Nominated Film 'A House Made of Splinters'?

Art Explainer of Zaborona in Stories
Mariya Pedorenko
March 9, 2023
This year, it became known that Simon Lereng Wilmont's 'A House Made of Splinters', a documentary about the lives of Ukrainian orphans in Donbas, co-produced by Denmark, Sweden, Ukraine, and Finland, was nominated for an Oscar. It will compete for Best Documentary Feature Film.
Wilmont has directed 11 documentary films, two of which are feature films. They are 'The Distant Barking of Dogs' (2017) and 'A House Made of Splinters' (2022), which focus on the Ukrainian-Russian war.
However, through the eyes of a Dane, the war in Ukraine does not look like an event chronicle, as was Yevhen Afineevsky's 'Winter on Fire', or like the detached panoramas of Serhiy Loznitsa in 'Maidan'. Like Iryna Tsilyk in 'The Earth Is Blue Like an Orange', Wilmont is close to his characters, the most ordinary Ukrainians, on whom the imprint of war can be seen with the naked eye.
In Denmark, 'The Distant Barking of Dogs' is known by its more prosaic title Oleh and the War. Oleh is 10 years old, and war is his everyday life: with his grandmother Oleksandra, who replaced his deceased mother, with military shelters that become a playground for children in the village of Hnutove, which last year turned from a frontline territory into an occupied one.
'A House Made of Splinters' is also a coming-of-age story. Only here the director increases the number of characters to an entire orphanage. Left without parental care in a Lysychansk orphanage, they wait for months to be returned to their old family or eventually transferred to a new one.
You won't see Lereng Wilmont himself in the films. Such documentary filmmakers are said to be a "fly on the wall", noting their method of observation without interference.
Some specialized journalists criticized the director for filming children's emotions that are too frank, while others compared 'A House Made of Splinters' to a voyeuristic peep show (where the viewer looks through a crack in the wall) precisely because of the experience of watching children's emotionally charged everyday life.
"With cinematography that looks insistent and unpretentious, Wilmont proves that he has clearly earned the trust of his tiny subjects — this is a multi-layered skill that belongs to both outstanding filmmaking and exemplary humanism," wrote Harper's Bazaar reviewer Tomris Laffly about the director's work.
"These kids have seen so many bad things, but they don't give up hope," says Lereng Wilmont about his characters. "They reach out for warm and loving connections. It's a beautiful story about how we, ordinary people, need each other."
Don't forget that people need people, and journalists need support. So we invite you to join the Zaborona❤️